Acts of the Apostles: The First Thirty Years
From Acts 4:5-22
When my wife and I first married, I had very few marketable skills. I found myself working for a man that had been an investor in a large condominium project. The builder had been a criminal. He built the outside of the properties and did everything necessary to continue receiving funds, but behind the scenes, he cut many corners.
As I said, I had few marketable skills, but I had been a framing carpenter. I also was willing to figure things out. I didn’t have Google, but I had made friends over my two short years as a carpenter in the trades, and so I had access to information the old-fashioned way- I could call a friend like on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”. Long story short, the investor, who was a hot-tempered elderly fellow, hired me to be his superintendent to help him finish the condominiums so he could sell them. I was glad for the work as Michelle was pregnant with our first child, and there was no Obama Care back then.
This was my first experience in construction management. One of the expectations of the man I worked for was to find tradesmen who would work for pennies instead of dollars. One day while on a supply run to Home Depot, I met an older electrician looking for work. He was in poor health, so none of the more prominent electrical companies would hire him as he was a liability. He turned out to be an excellent electrician.
While he worked for me, I would ask about his health, family, and needs. Usually, these conversations happened over our coffee breaks or lunch. He’d ask about Michelle and the baby occasionally too. We got to be friends. One day while we were talking and drinking our coffee, he stopped and looked at me seriously; his eyes filled with tears, and he said, “You are a Christian, aren’t you, Jeremy?” I eagerly replied, “yes!” Then he said, “You ask about my health every day because you are praying for me, aren’t you?” Again, I replied, “yes.” Inside I was bursting.
This was toward the end of year three of my walk with the Lord. There were so many good changes in my life in those first two years. But a lot of arrogance rose up in my heart too. I made people I loved dearly angry with my aggressive and condemning Christianity. You shouldn’t do this, and you shouldn’t do that was all that came out of my mouth. My grandmother was excited for me to become a Christian and stop breaking her heart as I’d done repeatedly as a teen and young man. I lived with her during that period. But when I became a Christian, I became a self-righteous jerk for a while.
About a year before the conversation with the electrician, just before Michelle and I married, God broke through some of my hypocrisy during a time of private prayer. I found myself praying for a friend, and the prayer went something like this, “thank goodness I’m not like that guy.” God revealed to me at that moment that a lot more repentance needed to happen. For a little while, God had allowed me, like we allow children, to think and act childishly. But I was about to be a married man. We wanted to have children as soon as possible. It was time to put away childish things. And so, God began to deal with me by His Spirit. It was spiritually heart-wrenching to be confronted with my sinful condemnation of others.
Let me return to my story about the electrician with this spiritual breakthrough as the background. You see, after God had so powerfully convicted me about my hypocrisy, I determined that I would live in such a way that people would know I was a Christian from my actions rather than from my words. I would not mention Christ to any new person I met until they figured out I was a Christian on their own. It had been months and months since I had made this determination, and nobody had figured it out yet. I was low-key spiritually depressed by this time. The idea that my life so little reflected the love of Christ that no one figured out on their own that I was a follower of His was a crushing blow to my pride.
After this electrician recognized I was a follower of Christ, an exciting thing happened. He, though not a follower himself, had, like every other southerner I knew, extensive experience in the Church. Through tears, he preached the Gospel to himself and me. His poor health at a relatively young age, I believe he was in his mid to late 50s, had caused him to consider God and mortality. Jesus had been much on his mind. I don’t know if he left that day a Christian or not, but this I do know, my good works toward him had caused him to recognize that I was a Christ follower and had opened the door for a deep Gospel conversation. Maybe he was changed; I cannot speak for him, but I was changed. Ephesians 2:8-10 became more real for me after that day.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
I was learning what it meant to be “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” What does all this have to do with Acts 4:5-22? Let’s read it, and I think you’ll see by the end where I’m headed and how the story is relevant.
We’ll pick up with Acts 4:5-22 tomorrow.
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.